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Bomb threats: HC seeks police's school evacuation plan

Source: PTI   -  Edited By: Senjo M R
May 07, 2024 00:37 IST
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The Delhi high court on Monday asked the city police to give details of the steps taken to ensure safe evacuation of school children in case of a bomb threat with least dependency on parents and without causing any panic.

IMAGE: Delhi Police stand guard outside the Mother Mary School after a bomb threat to several schools in Delhi-NCR, at Mayur Vihar Please 1 in New Delhi on Wednesday, May 1, 2024. Photograph: Shrikant Singh/ANI Photo

The high court directed the Delhi Police and the Delhi government to file affidavits giving data on the number of schools in each zone, the nodal authority in each zone which will be responsible for taking action in case of receipt of a threat, the time required for taking action on receipt of a bomb threat, and the number of mock drills that have been conducted under supervision of police and other departments.


Justice Subramonium Prasad said though police have filed a status report listing the standard operating procedure for bomb detection and disposal squads and the guidelines to deal with bomb threats in schools, they have not submitted data on several key aspects.

The affidavits, to be filed by the city police and the government, shall include “the action taken to ensure least dependence on parents, who would be working at far away places, for evacuating children from the schools since the primary responsibility for evacuating will be on the schools and on the authorities”.

The court said the affidavits, to be filed within 10 days, must also have information about various relevant circulars issued by the Delhi government from time to time.

The Delhi police shall also indicate the action they have taken to investigate the hoax bomb threat calls received by schools, Justice Prasad said, and listed the matter for further hearing on May 20.

The high court was hearing a petition expressing concern about bomb threats to schools in the recent past. Petitioner Arpit Bhargava, a lawyer, moved the court in 2023 in the wake of a hoax bomb threat to Delhi Public School (DPS) on Mathura Road here.

During the hearing, advocate Beenashaw Soni, appearing for the petitioner, mentioned the recent bomb threat email received by around 200 schools in the Delhi-NCR area which later turned out to be hoax.

She submitted there were only 18 bomb detection and disposal squads with the city police and wanted to know how they possibly could reach 200 schools as was the case recently.

“This time everyone was affected as every household has a kid. Schools gave a call to parents to come from their offices and pick up their children. The parents are traumatised and insecure. Are we waiting for a bomb to explode to bring these measures in line? It is like sending children to a war zone,” she argued.

Delhi government standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi, who was also representing the Delhi Police, submitted that deployment of constabulary in each and every school with modern equipment was not possible.

The police have issued SOP and all private schools have been informed about it. The SOP includes disaster management practices and also explains bomb threat situations.

After going through the SOPs, the court said they were general in nature and did not pertain to bomb threats to schools.

“There are certain institutions which require special treatment, for example hospitals where patients are finding it difficult to come out and schools where there are children right from nursery to 12th standard.

“What is it that you have done to ensure that children studying in schools are evacuated? Do you have any special kind of SOP to handle such a kind of problem or not?” the court asked.

It asked which authority would be alerted first and which would be the first to respond in the event of such a threat.

“What is the time period that you are giving to yourself from the time of receipt of bomb threat to actual action taken?” the court asked. Tripathi told the court it would not take more than 5 minutes.

On being asked about how many times mock drills have been conducted in schools, the government counsel said the exercise is conducted every three months.

The claim was disputed by the petitioner as also the judge who said, “I don't think the information or the instruction is correct.”

The Director of Education, who was present during the hearing, said the department issues instructions to schools to conduct mock drills quarterly after which they send action taken reports.
The Directorate of Education (DoE), in a recent status report, said it has "zero-tolerance policy" in matters of safety in schools and its officials are doing their best to ensure effective implementation of the guidelines for dealing with disasters, including bomb threats.

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Senjo M R© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.